Friday, December 2, 2016

FirstNet - California's RFI, just another way to get more confused than you already are?

So we have a number of RFI’s out on the market – Request for Information. An RFI is way different than an RFP – Request for Proposal. The obvious reason is because an RFP is actually trying to get solid bids for a task that needs to be done. The RFP has the ability to employ confidentiality into its effort. An RFI is just a request for information and is open to FOIA request. As a consultant, an RFI is the short politicized way of stealing. Everybody wants the information so they can further their own agenda, while not paying for any of it. Happens all the time.

The State of California has the most recent example of an RFI. So here we have a request for information that targets intelligence for one of the largest broadband buildouts in the nation. Estimates have California’s build out coming in between $5-12$ Billion dollars. Now that sounds tempting, but it sounds a lot like “get (steal) as much information you can, then do your own thing”. Why waste everyone’s time on doing an RFI? Why not do an RFP and get things moving, I mean it’s not like you are committed to an RFP either – at least not these days. The real question does not lay with the State on this one, it lays with the potential bidders. More information is not the answer you need, especially information you know really won’t give you what you want. Anybody can answer an RFI with fluff knowing that they can’t be held to anything they say – dedicated solutions are what is needed.

California doesn’t have a great track record when it comes to big contracts, i.e. LA-RICS was a good example. Why should a billion-dollar respondent want to risk spending thousands of dollars putting together information (secrets); then providing it to a State knowing that it can be viewed by all (FOIA); then spending another million putting together a proposal (and we aren’t even talking about spending on sales development leads); then losing to someone who has been greasing the skids since day one with incestuous hiring practices.  Doesn’t that sound a lot like the Motorola against Raytheon game all over again?

See here’s the problem – California and the Office of Emergency Management -- is not the same as LA.  The LA, San Fran and San Diego areas have a majority of the population centers, thus carry a big stick, especially when it comes to large contracts and the focus of large contractors. But, it is what it is and the market will play itself out. I mean if I were a large contractor I would definitely have second thoughts about responding to the RFI, let alone a follow on RFP, if I haven’t been in bed with this State from the start. Even then you may get lucky and get what you asked for – an award – then the legal battles start as well as the political nightmare. But we shouldn’t confuse our lack in ability to understand stupid as a detriment to our efforts.

 The fact is, an RFI will get you nowhere that you haven’t already been – confused. In fact, the more you know, the more confused you become. Simplicity is what’s needed. The State of California, and its RFI, will only get a small portion of the real information they will need. I can guarantee you that no large player will give up all its cards in the RFI process, if they respond at all. Unless someone has a way of skirting the FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) process and can insure that such information will not expose the overall plan, then I’m afraid the info will be no good, being an RFI will be a hard sell for confidentiality. California just needs to put out a simple RFP – an RFP just like the State of Alabama did. Another good example is the Red Carpitida RFP for Mexico, contractually that was a great approach, unfortunately politics plays a big part in that bid.

All States should make the simplistic approach their own. The government, whether State of Federal, is not prepared to build and operate such a platform, let alone invest in such an exercise of required funding. Leave it to the private entrepreneurial spirit of the investors and take ownership in your rights-of-way, your existing assets (spectrum), and your portfolio of land access as an ownership stake in the opportunity. Require any proposal to prioritize in three tiers of users; Priority 1 First Responders, Priority 2 Secondary Responders, and Priority 3 for commercial traffic. This is all part of the Myers Model plan. Don’t lose sight that the State will have access to some of the most valuable spectrum on the planet; spectrum that the commercial carriers would have paid billions for. Let the spectrum work for the State and provision its use for the long-haul all while setting the criteria of putting Public Safety first.

But what do I know I’m….

Just some guy and a blog…..

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